Saturday, January 14, 2023

If presented with a straight choice between the two options that the SNP's NEC set out today, I would without doubt choose Westminster 2024 as the de facto referendum, in spite of the disadvantages of a limited franchise. Waiting until 2026 - an entire decade after the EU referendum - would be totally unacceptable.

When the Tories completed their "taking stock" exercise in 1993, presenting a ragtag collection of cosmetic procedural changes (mostly involving the Scottish Grand Committee) as an answer to the Scottish people's desire for political devolution, Canon Kenyon Wright memorably replied as if he was marking an exam paper: "Interesting, but appears to have misunderstood the question."  Those words popped into my head today when I saw the outcome of the SNP's NEC meeting.  The SNP leadership would probably argue that they've listened to the concerns of those who think using a Westminster election as a de facto referendum would be a mistake, on the grounds that it would exclude 16 and 17 year olds, EU citizens, plus anyone who falls foul of the outrageous new photo ID rules.  So an alternative to the main plan has now been proposed, which would see a Holyrood election used as the de facto referendum instead - but crucially, it would wait until the next scheduled Holyrood election in 2026.  That's no use at all to the people who were actually arguing for a Holyrood de facto referendum, because they almost uniformly expected it to be a snap election held this year.  There was never any intention that it should be used as an excuse for yet more delay.  

Although I firmly believe that it is strategically wiser to use a Holyrood election, if I was confronted with a straight choice between the two options the SNP have set out today, I would undoubtedly choose the Westminster 2024 option, in spite of all the disadvantages of a narrower franchise.  By far the most important consideration is to ensure a timely vote.  If we wait until 2026, it means the people of Scotland will not be given a choice on independence until a full decade after they learned they were to be dragged out of the EU against their will.  None of us should consider that remotely acceptable.

However, there are two big plus points here.  Firstly, the NEC paper embraces the possibility of amendments at the special conference - so, in theory, delegates may yet be able to bring the option of a snap Holyrood election to the table, although given the control-freakery that the SNP leadership have become known for, I'll believe that when I see it.  And secondly, in spite of the way some people are reacting tonight, there has at least been no climbdown from the principle of a de facto referendum - both of the main options would see a de facto referendum take place, albeit in one case it would take place far too late.

By far the weakest part of the paper is the nonsense built into the alternative option about the 2024 Westminster election being used to obtain yet another mandate for a referendum (that would be the fifth!). Only if that mandate is ignored would the 2026 Holyrood election be used as a de facto plebiscite.  That creates a completely unnecessary additional hurdle.  There's no reason why the 2026 election can't be used regardless of the outcome of the 2024 election.  2026 will be a standalone election and its result will speak just as powerfully no matter what happened in 2024.  Why muddy the waters if the SNP win a majority of Westminster seats in 2024 but not a majority of the popular vote?

And there's also a needless sentence in the paper about how votes for other pro-independence parties will be counted towards the 50% + 1 target in a plebiscite election, but only if the SNP have entered into a pre-arrangement with those parties.  That caveat is obviously only there to exclude Alba, and it really is idiotic beyond words.  As you know, I don't think Alba should be intervening and risking a split in the vote in a plebiscite election conducted under first-past-the-post, but if they do, they could potentially take 0.5% or 1% of the vote, and excluding that from the pro-indy tally could needlessly convert a victory into a defeat.  Talk about the SNP shooting the independence campaign in the foot.

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Thursday, January 12, 2023

WINGS-WATCH: Campbell yet again trots out his dodgy graph falsely claiming Yes support has flatlined on 47% since the indyref - even though it has been comprehensively debunked multiple times

Stuart Campbell is back to blogging about opinion polls today, which - as inevitably as night follows day - means that he's trotted out some cynical lies.  Fortunately, our much-requested Wings-Watch fact-checking service is on hand to set the record straight yet again.

Once again we must start with Campbell's Lib Dem-style dodgy graph which falsely claims that support for independence has remained absolutely static on 47% since just after the independence referendum.  I've comprehensively debunked that graph many times before, but it looks like I'll just have to keep doing it every so often, because he's determined to treat his readers with utter contempt by telling them the exact same lie over and over and over again.  Below you'll find the real figures for independence support in recent times, which as you can see actually show substantial changes from year to year.  The annual averages for conventional polling are now updated with the final average for 2022, which saw Yes fall shy of the 50% mark by just 0.2 percentage points.

Yearly support for Scottish independence in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey:

2014:  33%

2016 (a):  39%

2016 (b):  46%

2018:  45%

2020:  51%

2021:  52%

Average yearly support for independence in conventional opinion polling:

2016:  47.7%

2017:  45.3%

2018:  45.5%
2019:  47.6%

2020:  53.0%

2021:  49.6%

2022:  49.8%

(For the sake of simplicity, the above figures use any poll included in Wikipedia's main list of independence polls.  There are up to five surveys for the Scottish Election Study - two from 2022 and three from 2021 - that arguably should be in Wikipedia's list but aren't.  However, there may be sound reasons for excluding them which I'm not aware of, so I'll just stick with the list.)

Incidentally, there's no alibi of ignorance for Campbell in repeating his discredited claim.  He's almost certainly seen the previous posts in which I debunked his graph, because he occasionally attempts to leave comments on Scot Goes Pop, and did so as recently as two or three nights ago.  (The comments are invariably abusive, so I tend to leave them in the moderation queue.)  Oh, and for his two adoring fans who tried to question my mental stability this week because of what they seemed to think was my absurdly improbable claim that Campbell was attempting to leave anonymous comments and that I could tell it was him from his writing style - nice try, guys, but he freely confirmed his identity in the final comment.

Not content with just one dodgy graph, Campbell also presents us with a second, which purports to show that support for independence was around 24% in May 2007 when Alex Salmond became First Minister (although that was almost three years after Mr Salmond started his second stint as SNP leader), rose to 50% by November 2014 when Mr Salmond handed over to Nicola Sturgeon, and slightly declined to what appears to be around 48% or 49% in November 2022.  The latter figure is an outright lie - every poll conducted in November 2022 had Yes over 50% once Don't Knows were excluded. Campbell can't use the sleight of hand of saying he left Don't Knows in, because that would make a nonsense of the graph's claim that Yes was on 50% in November 2014 - no poll conducted that month had Yes higher than 46% prior to the exclusion of Don't Knows.  And chucking in the 24% figure from 2007 is an absolutely fatuous apples-and-oranges comparison, because it comes from the Social Attitudes Survey, which cannot be compared with conventional polling because it uses a completely different methodology, including a multi-option question format.  It has always produced wildly different results, and indeed wildly different yearly trends, from conventional polling.  If Campbell's graph had been consistent by following up the 2007 figure with the comparable Social Attitudes Survey results from 2014 and 2021 (the latter being the most recent survey), it would have shown a rise from 24% to 33% under Alex Salmond between 2007 and 2014, and then an even bigger rise from 33% to 52% under Nicola Sturgeon between 2014 and 2021.  

The other way Campbell could have achieved consistency in the graph is by using conventional polling throughout.  That would have meant using a far, far higher starting point for Yes in 2007.  An average of TNS polls in 2007 had Yes on around 47% with Don't Knows excluded, or around 39.5% with Don't Knows left in.

Campbell sometimes styles himself as a "journalist", and indeed his supporters often laud him to the skies as "the best journalist in Scotland".  Well, I'd invite you to check everything I've said above.  It's all in the public domain and you'll be able to verify that the points I've made are accurate.  Then be honest with yourself about whether or not Campbell's graphs can be considered "journalism".  If you think they can, I'd gently suggest the only type of "journalism" you can really have in mind is the grotesque parody of the profession that has left the credibility of the mainstream Scottish media in tatters over recent years.  The sole purpose of the graphs is to deliberately convince people that a lie is true.  And, what's more, it works.  Many Wings readers regularly parrot Campbell's lies about polling as if they were indisputable gospel.  I make no apology whatever for confronting Wings readers with the factual reality - even though in some cases they really, really don't want to hear it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Alister Jack's direct lie that "Scotland does not want to be part of the European Union" is so brazenly at odds with every available piece of polling evidence that it's almost comical

I see that Alister Jack has claimed that "Scotland does not want to be part of the European Union" and "there's no desire in Scotland to have membership of the EU".  This made my ears prick up, because a couple of years ago I decided to use one of the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase polls to ask an incredibly simple question.

Should Scotland rejoin the European Union? (Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 1st-5th June 2020)

Yes 60%
No 40% 

I don't know how else to put this, other than that Scotland clearly does want to be part of the European Union, there plainly is a desire in Scotland to have membership of the EU, and that therefore it is beyond dispute that Alister Jack has told a direct lie.  What makes it more incredible is that Jack was responding to a question from Philippa Whitford in which she cited even more recent polling evidence that support for rejoining the EU is close to 70% in Scotland.

Remember a few weeks ago Adam "IT'S THE LAW!!!!" Tomkins panicked a bit at the implications of the Supreme Court verdict and his own knee-jerk triumphalist response to it, and rowed back by insisting that there was still a democratic route to independence in the form of opinion polls?  We didn't need all these new-fangled referendums and elections, he assured us, because we could be sure that if opinion poll evidence showed consistent support for independence, the UK Government would out of Sheer Plain Good Old British Decency acknowledge that reality and act accordingly.  Well, to be blunt, Adam, that theory is not really reconcilable with your own party's Secretary of State for Scotland making "black is white" claims when opinion polls in fact show sustained and overwhelming majority support for Scotland's return to the EU.  The figures are not even close to being within the margin of error.

The only caveat Jack put on his lie was that Scots oppose the EU "when they stop and look at the detail" - which perhaps implies that inconvenient opinion poll results can always be discounted because respondents haven't stopped to look at the detail.  The antidote to hasty responses to opinion polls is of course to allow voters to make considered decisions via referendums or elections.  But if the UK Government isn't going to allow referendums because now is not the time and never will be, and isn't going to recognise election results as valid because opinion polls will suffice, and isn't going to accept the results of opinion polls because poll respondents don't think about things properly like they would if they were voting in an election or referendum, then the Scottish people are trapped in a Kafkaesque world in which democracy no longer exists.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Einstein said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results - but that won't stop the SNP's NEC considering the possibility on Saturday

According to the Herald, the SNP's NEC will on Saturday consider the following options for "fleshing out" Nicola Sturgeon's plan for a de facto independence referendum -

1) Use the next Westminster election, expected next year, as a de facto independence referendum.

2) Use the next scheduled Holyrood election as a de facto independence referendum - which would mean waiting until 2026, a full decade after Scotland learned in 2016 it was to be dragged out of the EU against its will.

3) Bring about an early Holyrood election well before 2026, and use that as a de facto independence referendum.

4) Use the next Westminster election "to campaign on the issue of Scotland's right to choose how it is governed".

You'll probably have spotted the odd one out here.  Options 1-3 all genuinely flesh out the de facto referendum plan, while option 4 does a screeching U-turn on the plan, abandons it completely, and thus betrays an independence movement which had been given a cast-iron promise that a credible Plan B was in place to cover the danger that the Supreme Court would rule against the Scottish Government.  To state the obvious, using an election to "campaign on Scotland's right to choose" is not a de facto independence referendum, and it's not a remotely credible Plan B because it's already been tried umpteen times and it's proved to be utterly ineffective.  Let's just recap on the previous occasions it's been attempted...

* In 2016, the SNP won a Holyrood election on a manifesto stating that Scotland should have the right to hold a second independence referendum in the event of Brexit.  Westminster ignored this mandate.

* In 2017, the SNP won a Westminster election on a manifesto stating that a majority of seats would complete a "triple-lock mandate" for an independence referendum.  Westminster ignored this mandate.

* In 2019, the SNP won a Westminster election with dramatic seat gains on a manifesto promising to press ahead with an independence referendum.  Westminster ignored this mandate.

* In 2021, the SNP won a Holyrood election on a manifesto making a dual commitment to a referendum and to Scotland's right to choose (the main slogan was "Scotland's Future is Scotland's Choice, and nobody else's").  Westminster ignored this mandate.

Literally the only difference with these previous occasions is that if we seek another mandate for a referendum or for the right to choose, we no longer have the threat up our sleeves that the rejection of a Section 30 order might just lead to a consultative referendum without the UK Government's consent.  So this time the UK Government would be even more relaxed and unconcerned about ignoring the mandate.

And yet in spite of our unprecedented lack of leverage, the proponents of Option 4 expect us to believe, for some unspecified reason, that it'll be fifth time lucky.  So either Einstein had a point, or these people know perfectly well that they are punting a dud option that would be a dead end for the independence cause, and moreover, that is exactly why they are so enthusiastic about it.

If the SNP NEC are foolish enough to scrap the de facto referendum plan by adopting Option 4, I suspect it would be one U-turn and one betrayal too many for a large number of SNP members and voters.  The trust would be gone forever - not trust in the SNP as a party, but in the current leadership.

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Monday, January 9, 2023

Survation's propaganda polling for "Scotland in Dungeon" is BACK - and it shows support for Scotland "leaving the United Kingdom" has held up since September, with the SNP on course for another landslide win at the UK general election

You won't be surprised to hear that the "Scottish" Daily Express has lied through its teeth yet again today about Scottish independence polling.  It's told its readers that a poll shows that support for staying in the UK has "soared", in a "devastating blow" for Nicola Sturgeon - but in fact the poll does not show anything even remotely like that, it actually shows a completely unchanged position since the previous poll in September.  It's the latest in the regular series of propaganda polls that Survation conduct for Scotland in Union (amusingly dubbed "Scotland in Dungeon" by a reader of this blog) using a loaded question intentionally designed to give the false impression that support for independence is much lower than it actually is.

Should Scotland remain in the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom? (Survation / Scotland in Union, 22nd December 2022 - 1st January 2023)

Remain: 59% (-)
Leave: 41% (-)

This question always, absolutely always, produces lower support for the so-called "Leave" option than the "Yes" option receives in genuine independence polls.  There are a number of plausible explanations for this phenomenon, and in my view the most likely is that the reference to "the United Kingdom" leads a significant minority of respondents to wrongly think they're being asked a question about the monarchy.  Other possibilities are that respondents are getting mixed up with the Brexit issue due to the "Remain/Leave" formulation, or that they can see that they're not actually being asked about independence at all.  "Leaving the UK" does not automatically result in outright independence (Jersey, for example, is not independent but it's not in the UK either), and there's no particular reason for anyone to infer that independence is the subject of the poll unless the question spells that out.

I've said this before, but I remain baffled as to why Survation have allowed themselves to get embroiled in this type of disreputable propaganda polling.  My impression of them is that they take a particular pride in avoiding loaded, biased or misleading question wordings, and yet that seems to go completely out of the window every few months when Scotland in Dungeon come calling.  Perhaps SiD pay some sort of "push-poll premium", or maybe there's some other explanation, although I can't imagine what it would be.

If anyone feels that the latest blatant lie from the Express warrants a complaint to the press regulator under the accuracy clause of the Editors' Code, here is the form you'll need.  The only conceivable excuse I can see for the Express is that there were fewer Don't Knows in this poll than in the September poll, meaning that in the figures including Don't Knows, both the 'Remain' and 'Leave' vote has risen.  However, the Editors' Code specifies that headlines should be supported by the text of the article, and that isn't the case here - the only version of the figures the Express give in the article is the one with Don't Knows stripped out, which show no increase at all in the 'Remain' vote.

Believe it or not, the poll isn't completely useless, because it did ask for Westminster and Holyrood voting intentions using standard questions (although there's the traditional problem with Survation polls that the SNP always seem to be understated on the Holyrood list vote).

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 44% (-)
Labour 31% (-1)
Conservatives 16% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-)
Greens 1% (n/a)
Reform UK 1% (n/a)

Seats projection: SNP 48 (-), Labour 7 (+6), Liberal Democrats 2 (-2), Conservatives 2 (-4)

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 44% (-1)
Labour 29% (-1)
Conservatives 16% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+2)
Greens 1% (n/a)
Alba 1% (n/a)
Reform UK 1% (n/a)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 33% (+2)
Labour 26% (-1)
Conservatives 15% (+1)
Greens 12% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 9% (-)
Alba 2% (+1)
Reform UK 2% (-)
UKIP 1% (-)

Seats projection: SNP 62 (-2), Labour 32 (+10), Conservatives 17 (-14), Greens 11 (+3), Liberal Democrats 7 (+3)

Although pro-indy parties are falling a little short of an outright majority of the popular vote - which of course will matter hugely in a de facto referendum - I think the SNP will be pretty happy with these numbers.  In the context of a massive GB-wide Labour lead, it's pretty creditable for the SNP to maintain a double-digit lead in Scotland.  Labour have made some progress north of the border, but they seem to have been more or less stuck for several weeks, and are perhaps even going backwards very slightly.  There's no sign yet of a really telling Labour breakthrough.

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